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Take the right position on Israel and you can raise 1/4 million, Senate candidate is advised

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Michelle Nunn

Michelle Nunn

Everyone’s sending this around today. It’s part of a fundraising memo for Michelle Nunn’s campaign for Senate in Georgia, published at Vox. Say the right thing on Israel and you can raise a quarter-million dollars.


Screen_shot_2014-07-28_at_1.42.54_pmMatthew Yglesias says we all know about this, but journalists are inhibited to describe the importance of this money because it’s an “anti-semitic trope.”

To anyone who’s familiar with Democratic Party fundraising — particularly for non-incumbent underdogs, who typically have trouble raising money — this won’t be too surprising.

Jewish donors are very important to Democratic Party finances, some of these donors have strongly held hawkish views on Israel, and the financial clout of AIPAC is the stuff of legend. At the same time, talk of rich Jews throwing their financial muscle around to influence policy in favor of Israel touches far too many anti-semitic tropes to be regularly mentioned in political discourse. But the concrete world of political fundraising doesn’t leave a ton of time for beating around the bush, so we get a little window here into how it looks to the finance people: if Nunn wants to maximize her donations, she needs to take the right stance.

Right. Everyone knows it, no one can talk about it. It’s been estimated that on the Democratic side at the congressional level on up, Jews account for half to two-thirds of the funding.

Now here is the same story told in a different way. Tim Mak at the Daily Beast asked some leftleaning congress-people why they weren’t reflecting the grassroots outrage over Gaza:

Democrats, when asked a question about Israeli operations in Gaza, had two standard responses: irritation, or else a statement of their broad support of Israel, without going into specifics. It was as if the very mention of Israel turned the question into a hostile interview.

“Look, man, I’m a politician, with multiple constituencies. Why should I alienate one just so that you can write a story?” Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison angrily told The Daily Beast. Ellison, a stalwart progressive, was the first Muslim-American elected to Congress….

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a darling of the left who identifies as a democratic socialist, was curt. His tone changed suddenly when the topic shifted from the Veterans Administration bill that he had been shepherding through Congress to Israel’s operation in Gaza.

“That’s not where my mind is right now,” he told the Beast.

Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin said he was on his way to a meeting and didn’t have time to discuss the issue. (He did, however, stop for another reporter, who asked about transportation funding.) When Rep. Krysten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, was approached, she simply repeated that she supports the right of Israel to defend itself.

There has been essentially no congressional criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

As I wrote six years ago when an acquaintance at Harvard was scolding Stephen Walt to me for his alleged naivete in having written The Israel Lobby:

[Acquaintance’s scold:] “Walk around Harvard and the Kennedy School, what are the names on the buildings? Taubman, Rubenstein, Belfer, Weiner. Where do you think the money is coming from in academia?”

This is a reminder that you cannot honestly describe the formation of Middle East policy without acknowledging that Jews are principals in the establishment, and Jewish wealth is a significant factor in public life.

Walt wasn’t naive; he was brave, he had tenure and decided that the cost to his ambition was worth his freedom to state his beliefs. Maybe Yglesias and other MSM journalists should emulate him now that another 1000 Palestinians have been slaughtered.

Andrew Sullivan agrees the subject is important, and says the internet has liberated us to say so.

not so long ago, anyone saying that Jewish donor money made an even-handed approach to Israel-Palestine a pretty dead letter would be deemed ipso facto an anti-Semite.

More to the point, such a view would not be allowed into print in any mainstream outlet. It would be regarded as an anti-Semitic trope – even if it were factually true.It’s as if a libel law did not allow for the truth as a defense!..

It’s also a matter of record, I think, that there is no way I could have written or published anything along these lines before the blogging era. Having my own space to think out loud, outside the parameters of an existing institution, without all the caution around the subject that was baked deep in Washington journalism, was critical to my changing views in response to changing facts. The intimidation had an effect. It was designed to. 

The good news is that America is finding a way to talk about this, and American Jews, confident and unthreatened, are participating in the conversation.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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24 Responses

  1. Donald on July 30, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Keith Ellison’s reaction was stunning, but I guess that just proves your point.

    • lysias on July 30, 2014, 3:09 pm

      “Look, man, I’m a politician, with multiple constituencies. Why should I alienate one just so that you can write a story?”

      Funny how politicians don’t seem to worry about offending Muslim constituents.

    • GJB on July 30, 2014, 8:40 pm

      Ellison just redeemed himself on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show. He came out strongly not just for a cease fire but also for an end to the blockade of Gaza.

  2. John Douglas on July 30, 2014, 1:34 pm

    This is why I say, “Thank god for Mondoweiss.” And I believe that increasingly Mondoweiss is speaking to a constituency beyond the choir, influencing journalists, media and others.

    • chocopie on July 30, 2014, 1:58 pm

      Would love to know the trends in Mondoweiss’ readership stats lately.

      • annie on July 30, 2014, 2:19 pm

        a huge huge jump in traffic. so much so we had to change servers today, it became mandatory (you may have noticed this morning no one could log in). just thought i’d take this opportunity to make a little plug, it’s not cheap and we still don’t advertise!

      • Mooser on July 30, 2014, 3:26 pm

        Thanks, Annie, I was wondering about how Mondo was fairing technically. Glad the server-switch went smoothly.

      • gamal on July 30, 2014, 4:18 pm

        “you may have noticed this morning no one could log in”

        I assumed it was Islamophobia or at least sapiensaphobia that prevented me from logging in, and the TSA broke into my bag at Miami, the Dudtsi must have caused them some concern, my copy of Samir Amin’s “Eurocentrism” disappeared but i got a nice note from them apologizing for breaking my locks, America is the only place where my luggage has been robbed, 2nd time, in the Paradeplatz in Zurich there is a demonstration against the destruction of Gaza. My shame i know no German, but i suspect they do not respect the distinction between sucking up and fucking off, perverts!

    • seafoid on July 30, 2014, 4:45 pm

      Burston is still outside the tent pissing in
      “But I have never been to a funeral in Israel even remotely like Max’s. Tens of thousands of Israelis, silent, still, showing a level of respect that implied that this was something altogether new in their experience as well.
      Nearly none of us had known him. But by the end of intensely personal eulogies by family and friends, it seemed that all of us had.

      The same could not be said of Allison Benedikt, trying to explain why someone like Max might want to tie his fate to a place like this, to people like these:

      “Maybe Max was especially lost, or especially susceptible, or maybe he was just looking to do some good and became convinced by his Birthright experience that putting on an IDF uniform and grabbing a gun was the way to do it,” she wrote.

      “It turns out that it’s not that hard to persuade young people to see the world a certain way and that Birthright is very good at doing it. You spend hundreds of millions of dollars to convince young Jews that they are deeply connected to a country that desperately needs their support? This is what you get.”

      She’s wrong. So is Phil Weiss. So are Pam Bailey and Dr. Abdu. How do I know? For the same reason that they’ll doubtless dismiss what I have to say as worthless.

      I was once a kid growing up in the Valley, like Max, not at all particularly interested in Israel, much more into music and sports. Only when I visited here, did I understand what Max would as well. Kool-Aid has nothing to do with it. Nor indoctrination, nor millions of dollars, nor uniforms and guns.
      It’s the people who are here. Not everyone, but an extraordinary number, given the circumstances. Decent, loving, wounded, coping*. They have everything to do with it. ”

      * 95% support the carnage in Gaza

      • just on July 30, 2014, 7:01 pm

        A waste of an UC Berkeley education. Perhaps he should serve as a combat medic again– in Gaza.

        (congrats and thanks to Phil, Pam Bailey, Ramy S. Abdu, PhD, the wonderful team @ MW and all of the commenters here for a job well done!)

  3. lysias on July 30, 2014, 3:08 pm

    Former Biden aide Jeff Connaughton has a great deal to say about the importance of Jewish donors to Democratic candidates in his book The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.

  4. Mooser on July 30, 2014, 3:20 pm

    Can’t she get a turtleneck or cowl-neck, and hide that hickey?

    • just on July 30, 2014, 3:25 pm

      I’d suggest a dickey for the hickey, but good on you to be so fashionista- savvy!

  5. Mooser on July 30, 2014, 3:44 pm

    I always love the way they say “Jewish Community” as if the contributions are Temple-tested and Rabbi-approved.

  6. JonnyAlpha on July 30, 2014, 3:52 pm

    This story repeated refers to ‘Jewish’ money and influence.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with some, all or none of the contributors being Jewish. However if contributors, Jewish or not, all tie support to a condition of unthinking, unquestioning support for Israel that is a different matter.

    Don’t forget that the oil industry and armaments industry have a big stake in Israel militarism, and many Christians are irrationally supportive of Israel.

    The issue is where there is a lack of pluralism in the objectives of contributors, as they buy out democracy – even as bad as it is.

    Israel and Zionism spend a great deal of money every year to fool people into thinking that Judaism, Zionism and Israel are all the same thing.

    Please do not reinforce this message. It is not true, and the belief in it garners support for Zionism.

  7. philweiss on July 30, 2014, 4:09 pm

    It is essential that Jewish community begin to make this distinction, between Zionists and Judaism. The politicians, not knowing who’s who, make the same conflation that they do with say, older Catholics and abortion issue

    • gamal on July 30, 2014, 4:25 pm

      yeah Phil, you need to get yourself a Caliph, like what we have.

      “make the same conflation that they do with say, older Catholics and abortion issue”
      Aborting elderly Catholics is no longer allowed? who knew, postnatal abortion of Arabs is de riguer.

    • American on July 30, 2014, 4:36 pm

      I am going to tell you this again and you will no doubt ignore it again.
      If you want to distinguish Jews from Zionist for the politicians and the public you have to ‘get out in front of it’ in an ‘attention getting way.’
      The Jewish activist should be out ‘burning Zionist in effigy’ in their protest and portraying the Zionist as a’ Mafia’ that has infiltrated/kidnapped ‘the Jews’ as well as the US government.
      It does no real good to target ‘Israel’ with protest–all it does is show people other people also against what Israel does—to get to Israel you have to *target* the Zionist and politicians….in order to get ‘political’ attention and put them on the hot seat.
      Even the liberal pro Israel supporters should understand they have to get the US Zionist and politicians in order to save Israel.

    • seafoid on July 30, 2014, 4:40 pm

      You have to start talking about what the contaminated money of maybe 300 people is doing to Jewish life. Israel is out of control on the back of it. Organised Judaism is riding in a sidecar alongside. All because of money. Adelson is doing more damage to Judaism than the PLO ever did.

      • Mooser on July 30, 2014, 7:12 pm

        “You have to start talking about what the contaminated money of maybe 300”

        I would say 300 is a bit low, couple of thousand might be more accurate (but unlike you, I’m just guessing, it may be much lower than that. Maybe, like you say, it’s just a few hundred.)

    • Raksha on July 30, 2014, 5:17 pm

      The problem is that nobody wants to go first. Everyone in Congress or running for Congress knows (or should know) that there is a highly motivated grassroots Jewish constituency not afflicted with PEP syndrome, who are in fact disgusted by the hypocrisy–and their number is growing by the hour.

      How many are we, and what percentage of the “Jewish money” that fills the campaign chests comes from the progressive base? I don’t mean the pseudo-progressives, but the ones who still remember what “mensch” means and who have an acquired immunity to being called a self-hating Jew. About the only thing we know at this point is that the number is increasing, as the increased traffic here at Mondoweiss attests. Of course not everyone who lurks or posts here is Jewish, but I’m not sure how much that matters. The important thing is that they can be critical of Israel, critical of America’s enablement of war crimes without being vulnerable to the charge of antisemitism.

      I can’t believe the Democratic candidates don’t realize there is an activist Jewish constituency seething with frustration at being shouted down by AIPAC–over and over again. Especially not when AIPAC’s constituency is aging and shrinking while our side is growing. And yet NOBODY, not even Bernie Sanders, wants to be the first to step up to the plate, and I can’t say I blame them. They wouldn’t be alone long, but it’s scary to be the first one.

    • JonnyAlpha on July 30, 2014, 5:54 pm

      Thanks for responding.

      The Jewish community, have more than begun. Its just the press doesn’t say much about it.

    • Mooser on July 30, 2014, 7:00 pm

      “It is essential that Jewish community begin to make this distinction, between Zionists and Judaism. “

      You mean the anti-Zionist or non-Zionist Jewish community can outbid the Zionists? That I’d like to see.

      Besides, didn’t the Zionist already deal with opposition to their plans from Jews, and win handily? It would be a pushover.

  8. dbroncos on July 30, 2014, 10:06 pm

    Will the colossal disaster of an exclusive Jewish State lead to campaign finance reform or will it be the other way round? At this point I think it’s a toss up.

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